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Interview: Yuki Kajiura

by Jacob Chapman,

A musician and composer of Yuki Kajiura's caliber scarcely needs an introduction; her incredible compositions for an ocean of beloved anime have thrilled fans all over the world for decades now, lending her distinct, unmistakable sound to classics like Noir, .hack//SIGN, Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero and so much more. Most recently, she brought her spectacular sound to both Princess Principal and Fate/stay night: Heaven's Feel Part I, once again proving she's one of the best in the business.

Visitors to this year's Anime Expo in Los Angeles are in for something special when Kajiura takes the stage at the Microsoft Theater on July 6th for a performance as part of this year's Anisong World Matsuri; ANN had the chance to ask this legendary musician a few questions ahead of the big show next week.

ANN: It's been six years since you last performed here at Anime Expo. What music are you most excited to share with your fans in America this year?

Yuki Kajiura: Everything! At Anime Expo, the musicians I'm working with are my favorite musicians to record and perform with in Japan. Their performances make my songs awesome.

Princess Principal offers a fantastical take on early 20th-century England. What kind of research did you do to give its world that historical flavor?

We didn't decide on just one specific era. In order to create the atmosphere of a fictional time period, the meetings with the animation staff became very important. I also took inspiration from the color and atmosphere of the imagery.

Did you have much experience with jazz-style composition before working on Princess Principal, and how do you feel about writing jazz instrumentation?

Princess Principal's music actually has a simple structure, with a lot of melody motifs to make it familiar to the listeners. The element of "jazz" in the music starts with the framework of melody, tempo, and groove. Then the improvisation comes in after the frame is set, and we get wonderful creativity from the musicians in each part.

The Heaven's Feel movies are much darker in tone than ufotable's previous Fate/stay night works. How does this tone shift affect your approach to writing new music for the story?

We haven't changed anything about the approach. This time we also did film scoring to match all the music to the timing of the animation. After reading the script carefully, I started making notes about the tone and the emotions for the entire work as if I produced it by myself. When I work with anime that has a "dark" atmosphere, I try not to let that dominate the entire flow, because the definition of "dark" depends on the scene, the depth and weight of the air, and how the “dark” elements are seen through different eyes. Therefore, I try to create something that fits the whole process rather than just serving a single scene.

Do you have any favorite uses of leitmotifs or themes from earlier Fate soundtracks that we can listen for in your work on Heaven's Feel?

As a composer, I don't decide how to arrange music for a new project based on previous works, so there might be something you could find if you're looking for it, but it's a little difficult to answer this question. The past works stand on their own, and the new work is crafted to fit the project that's in front of me at the present time.

What are your plans for your visit to Los Angeles? Is there anything about the city that might inspire your future musical work?

I haven't planned for anything yet other than the concert. However, when I visited L.A. before, I felt this openness that I could never feel in Japan because of the very beautiful clear blue sky. I think the atmosphere and the blue sky of L.A. are distinctive. I haven't experienced that feeling anywhere else. It makes me feel I can escape far away with my heart, which, actually now that I say it, seems somewhat bittersweet. I'm sure I can receive some amazing inspiration this time!

Yuki Kajiura performs live at Anisong World Matsuri at Anime Expo on July 6, 2018.

http://www.anime-expo.org/anisong-world-matsuri/ http://www.fictionjunction.com/ https://twitter.com/Fion0806

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